My first community was the military.
Before I was a Community Development Representative (CDR), I served in the United States Marine Corps. Believe it or not, the community industry and the military share quite a few values — a strong sense of purpose, trust, authenticity, respect, and collaboration, to name a few.
Just like many folks who've ended up in the community, my path has been unconventional, to put it mildly. I started by enlisting in the US Marine Corps, then moved on to manage a bustling Starbucks store before finally finding my way into the world of community as a CDR. It's been a wild ride, full of twists and turns, and one that has taught me valuable lessons about the benefits of building solid connections with others.
When I joined Commsor in 2021 (thanks to — no surprises here — the connections I made in a community) and learned about community in a business context, I had a lot of experiences and skills to draw from.
Three years on and many communities later, I’ve met amazing people and built great connections, but I realized there wasn’t a community for people like me: military vets who’ve somehow found their way to tech in Sales or go-to-market roles.
Sharing and being in a community with someone who comes from your background and is also now working in a similar space as you can be a powerful experience — both cathartic, and incredible for networking and helping you grow.
This is why I started a Community for Veterans in Sales — a community for military veterans in sales and other go-to-market roles. It's a space for us vets to share our stories, offer support and advice, share how our military experience improves our work, and learn from each other.
To start this community, I combined my knowledge of military life with community-building principles. Here's my approach.
I’ve come across hundreds of military vets who have pivoted to sales and other go-to-market roles like me — and despite all that common ground, there’s no place for us to connect.
So I decided to make one.
Right from the initial spark of an idea, the purpose was clear: I wanted to create a space for vets in these industries to gather and discuss what it means to be in GTM roles and how our former training helps us do our work better.
I know it seems pretty straightforward — invite people in GTM roles who have been in the military — but it was a lot more complex than that.
My first thought was to invite anybody and everybody who has been a veteran at some point and is now in sales. My other option was to make it even more niche and only invite people who have recently transitioned from the military directly to Sales or GTM roles. I ended up with neither.
I realized that for the community to be diverse, I needed to find various military vets; Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, (even Space Force!), etc. I had to factor in their ranks, their current GTM role and seniority, the region they served in, and their time in the military before transitioning to Sales. We needed a good mixture of vets in senior and junior roles from a variety of backgrounds.
Right now, we have 33 members, all from different backgrounds. Some people served in the early 90s and transitioned soon after being released. Those people are now at VP or CRO level at their companies. And then, we have people who recently transitioned from military to GTM roles in tech.
In the future, this mixture will help us start up programs like mentorship programs because we’ll have the right amount of experienced professionals and juniors who need some guidance.
Now that I had my purpose and ideal member persona mapped out, it was time to consider how I planned to keep them all participating and engaged.
One-on-one conversations are essential for this community. Being in the military means we all have stories and experiences to share, and matching members who share the most similarities — interests, experience, military ranking, etc. — is a great way to build long last relationships. Our chosen platform Meetsy automatically matches members to meet up if they opt in. It also allows members to request one-on-ones manually if they want to get to know a particular member.
As the community grows, my plan is to start hosting monthly or annual events. A big part of this community is learning from one another, so having events where members in more senior roles can share their expertise will be a game changer for us.
Deciding how I want my members to engage played a huge role in helping me decide on Meetsy as a community platform.
As mentioned above, military folks are usually straightforward, cut-and-dry, and a bustling chat-based community wouldn't cut it. Instead, I wanted a place where we could interact face-to-face. This isn't to say that we won't need a space for asynchronous conversation in the future, but at this minimum viable community level, meeting like this makes sense.
Because our members are in junior to executive roles, I want to encourage networking. One-on-one meet-ups on Meetsy work well for this and can help members advance their careers through strong networks based on shared experiences.
We've already had our first meet-up, which was pretty successful.
I’ve set up a recurring match program for each of our members to meet once a month. If members can build one-on-one relationships, I believe the community as a whole will grow through those connections.
Our group discussions are once a month as well. We're just starting, so I wanted to keep things light. Eventually, I plan to reach out to members who are more senior in their careers to host AMAs.
The point is to plan engaging content for my members to keep wanting to come back while keeping our recurring meetings going to build that habit of tuning in and connecting.